GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 333-1
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM


MURRAY, Kyle E., Oklahoma Geological Survey, University of Oklahoma, 100 East Boyd Street, Norman, OK 73019,

There are long-standing, though variable by state, regulatory standards for permitting, operation, and testing of oil and gas wells, wastewater injection wells, and drinking water wells. The presence or absence of sensitive water supplies, aquifers, and underground sources of drinking water (USDWs) may define permissible locations or depths for wells. During permitting there is often an open period for public opposition and an administrative hearing process if opposing points and arguments are brought against a permit application. Most of these measures are intended to protect drinking water resources, and geologic knowledge is invaluable to avoiding or resolving the source or cleanup of contamination.

However, now there are emerging legal issues that require geologic expertise and present ethical challenges to geoscientists. Because industrial activity is occurring in new or dormant regions, new permits might be denied based on a perceived threat or previously issued permits may be adjusted, suspended, or revoked because of an adverse event. Increases in noise or dust pollution, road traffic, or seismic hazard are some of the perceived or apparent adverse effects influencing permitting and operation. Seismic events have also resulted in legal action against various operators, but cause and effect are not straightforward because of a complicated set of 4D geologic and other factors. A preponderance of geologic research might support one of the parties in a case, but limitations and uncertainties are often not defined for published work. Without proper quality assurance and quality control, it becomes difficult to quantify hazard or risk and further translate to legal liabilities. Some of these challenges will be explored to strive toward ethical, responsible, and scientifically defensible geological research and practice.